Music evokes emotion. It’s the main reason why everyone loves it so much. Whether you feel like making angry paintings to Nirvana, or getting drunk with your boys to some Chief Keef, there’s an emotion to every song we hear.
Sometimes, however, our ears can be tricked and we are lured into feeling happy by a song, when in reality, it’s quite depressing.
Here are 10 songs that you thought made you happy, until you actually listened…
Electric Avenue — Eddy Grant
People often falsely believe that this up-beat song is about partying or weed, but it’s actually about violent rioting that broke out in the Brixton area of England in 1981. Notable lyrics, such as “”Workin’ so hard like a soldier/ Can’t afford a thing on TV/ Deep in my heart I abhor ya/ Can’t get food for them kids/ Good god!”, depict a repressed mentality. The incident, known as Bloody Saturday, was sparked when police officers allegedly ignored a black youth who lay bleeding in the street from stab wounds. “Electric Avenue” is the name of a famous market street in Brixton where the events occurred.
Mmmbop — Hanson
Yep, that’s right. That song that you despise but can’t help singing along to is actually a lot more depressing than you thought. Just look at lyrics like “You have so many relationships in this life/ Only one or two will last/ You go through all the pain and strife/ Then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast” and “In the end they’ll be the only ones there/ And when you get old and start losing you hair/ Tell me who will still care”. When you really listen, it sounds more like late-career Johnny Cash, not cute teenage pop stars.
Train In Vain — The Clash
According to rumors, this is actually a good old fashion diss track, as evident by lyrics “Did you stand by me/ No not at all/ Did you stand by me/ No way”. It was reportedly in response to a song called “Typical Girls” by punk band The Slits.
Hey Ya — Outkast
This one hurts, because who doesn’t feel great when listening to ‘Hey Ya’? However, listen carefully; “Why oh why of why oh why are we so in denial/ When we know we’re not happy here?” It’s really about a loveless relationship. Here’s more; “If what they say is Nothin is forever/ What makes love the exception?” The song depicts two people who can’t leave each other but no longer love one another. People assume this track is just as happy as it sounds, but as the song says; “Y’all dont want to hear me/ You just wanna dance.” Ouch.
Semi Charmed Life — Third Eye Blind
Now this one is a real doozy. It’s a shock that this song made it to international airwaves if you simply listen to a few seconds of it, because they don’t even try to disguise their message; it’s clearly about drugs. Just look at lyrics like “I was taking sips of it through my nose/ And I wish I could get back there/ Someplace back there/ Smiling in the pictures you would take/ Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break.” The fifth line of the song is “She comes round and she goes down on me” followed two lines later by “coming over you” and four lines later “chop another line like a coda with a curse”. The entire song is very blatantly an ode to hard drugs and the resulting feeling of “I want something else, to get me through this”.
Steely Dan – Everyone’s Gone To The Movies
“Kids if you want some fun/ Mr.Lapage is your man/ He’s always laughing, having fun/ Showing his films in his den.” Uh, ok. Hey kids, if you want to have some fun, come into the den and check out some of Mr.Lapage’s “films”, they’re great. “Listen to what I say/ He wants to show you the way/ Right down the hallway with open arms/ To teach you a new game to play”. OK, now things have gotten weird. I think we should leave Mr.Lapage’s house and tell a responsible adult about his “films” and “games” that happen when everyone’s gone to the movies.
You Can Call Me Al — Paul Simon
Don’t let a fun video featuring Chevy Chase confuse you, this song is actually about a man going through a horrible mid-life crisis. The song begins with the lyrics “A man walks down the street/ He says why am I soft in the middle now/ Why am I soft in the middle/ The rest of my life is so hard/ I need a photo-opportunity/ I want a shot at redemption/ Don’t want to end up a cartoon/ In a cartoon graveyard”. It’s a man who is feeling depressed and lost. By the third verse, the man had left his wife and family and is literally lost in a third world country trying to find himself; “A man walks down the street/ It’s a street in a strange world/ Maybe it’s the Third World/ Maybe it’s his first time around/ He doesn’t speak the language/ He holds no currency/ He is a foreign man/ He is surrounded by the sound.”
The Monkees – Last Train To Clarksville
Although it may seem happy, because the Monkees were great at making songs sound that way, this song was actually a Vietnam war protest song. It’s the story of a man who’s taking a train to an army base in order to see the love of his life one last time before going to war and, as the man says, “I don’t know if I’m ever coming home”.
Kiss – Detroit Rock City
This rock classic is apparently based on a true story of a guy trying to make it to a Kiss show by midnight, so he gets drunk and stoned and races over the the arena but dies in a car accident along the way. Just look at the lyrics; “12 oclock, I gotta rock/ Theres a truck ahead, lights starin at my eyes/ Oh my God, no time to turn/ I got to laugh, cause I know I’m gonna die/ Why?”
Inner Feeling – Sweat
You’ve probably heard this reggae classic a million times and never batted an eyelid at it. Well, it’s actually a pretty terrible track. Essentially, it’s about rape. It starts with the singer hitting on an attractive girl, but getting fed up with her and eventually just forcing himself on her. Check out lyrics like “Girl I want to make you sweat/ Sweat till you can’t sweat no more/ And if you cry out, I’m gonna push it some more more more.” So, don’t try and yell for help, or things will only get worse for you.